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Addressing urbanization and its grip on poverty in Ethiopia

Unlocking the opportunities and challenges of working with destitute children

 By Feleke Tadele, country director, Ethiopia

(director, program effectiveness and resource management, effective Sept. 4)

Ethiopia’s history dates back to the first millennium BC, and as the economy has grown rapidly during the past decade, the country seems well positioned to flourish. In fact, according to recent studies by the Government of Ethiopia (GoE), the urban population has shown a four-percent annual increase during the past five years.

But, catching up to such rapid change has delayed social-service delivery, employment creation and urban infrastructure upgrading in the past five years. So what does that mean? It has become especially difficult for the most destitute to access existing social services.

A forthcoming study about urban social safety nets by the GoE, in which I contributed as part of an advisory group, reveals the severity of urban poverty in addition to chronic or transitory poverty in Ethiopia.

The study shows how destitute children and their families living on the streets of 11 major cities are not accessing the basics they need to grow and develop skills to support themselves or participate in community activities to improve their well-being.

These children and their families are dependent on the goodwill of others, including charity from the public or welfare from the state or non-governmental agencies, either in cash or in-kind.

They are often isolated from society, so they become socially invisible, face severe social deprivation or violence and tend to be vulnerable to crime, drugs culture or other related underground social activities. And, so continues a vicious cycle of poverty, homelessness, powerlessness, stigmatization, discrimination, exclusion and material deprivation, all of which mutually reinforce each other.

In urban Ethiopia, most young women, like those referenced in the study, experience abuse; some have bad relationships with male partners or are persuaded by their peers to flee urban centres. Often they will fall victim to rape, sexual exploitation, gender-based violence, unwanted pregnancies; some contract HIV and/or sexually-transmitted infections. Many of these young women end up begging or joining the sex trade to support their children.

Since 1987, Christian Children’s Fund of Canada (CCFC), together with our supporters, partners and staff, have helped more than one-million children, families and communities in Ethiopia.

We have built or improved early-childhood education centres and primary schools in urban slums and remote rural communities and worked with the Ministry of Heath to improve maternal and child-health services. We have also improved access to urban education and health facilities, and supported women and moms in forming self-help economic groups.

Despite improved social-service delivery in poor urban communities, there is still lots to do. It is a complex issue — especially without a comprehensive social-protection system — but CCFC and its partners will continue to work with local, regional and federal government bodies to influence the provision of comprehensive and inclusive urban social safety nets.

Our goal is to reduce destitution, provide access to services and stimulate social stability, especially among children and youth, prioritizing girls and young women.

Join us in ensuring no children are left behind. Sponsor a child and help a community today.

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About Christian Children’s Fund of Canada:

Christian Children’s Fund of Canada (CCFC) is a child-centred international development organization and a member of ChildFund Alliance. For nearly 60 years, CCFC has worked with children, communities, donors and other partners — changing lives through improved health, education and clean water. CCFC works in 12 countries across Africa, Asia and the Americas, to support more than 700,000 children, youth and community members.